It was 2 years ago when I decided to start educating myself about boudoir and practicing to see if this was something I enjoyed photographing (hint, I fell in love with shooting boudoir at that very moment). It was at this stage that I reached out to Hair and Makeup Artist Michelle Carbonneau to see if she’d like to collaborate and work together. For 2 years I have worked so very closely with her, we have become friends and allies. She has helped pamper and enhance so many women for their boudoir session with me. I have heard her build up and pump women up for their sessions. For 2 years I asked this incredibly beautiful woman to do a session with me so that she could understand what the ladies are doing, the feeling, and so that she could finally see herself in the way that I see her.
You see, Michelle had her own body image issues as well as inner dialogue. I had heard the things she says to herself out loud countless times and I was on a mission to change this for her, for her to see that she was more than she was valuing herself as.
Michelle contacted me one day and said, that’s it I can’t do this more, I need to do a session, I need to start fixing the body image issues I am having! So we booked a session for September 2018 once the new studio would be ready. As luck would have it, she ended up being the lady who christened the new space, and that in itself is pretty profound. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to maker her energy on the studio. I had known some of the root issues of Michelle’s journey, like a boy in school telling her she had the body of a man which left deep roots in her inner dialogue as she said she has never viewed her body as feminine due to that comment, this was also one of the first things she said to me when she arrived for her session. I also know that her own mother, who she looks up to as has told me countless times “my mom is the most beautiful woman in the world to me, I wish she would see this”. I have personally left her mother, and she’s such a wonderful woman and is Michelle’s personal cheerleader, she is full of love and is a beautiful woman inside and out.
I have said this beyond a thousand times, as mothers what we say about our body or how we shame it/ourselves this is what our little ones internalize and personalize, even if they are no longer little it will leave an impression. I am so honoured to be changing women’s lives so that we can change the next generation and free them body hate and instead allow them to accept themselves for the amazing beautiful people the are.
Michelle told me days before as I was confirming all of our sessions with other ladies that she’d be there for her session… I think I pestered her every day (maybe every second) because I knew she was going through huge anxiety about the whole thing and quite frankly I could tell as it got closer she was dreading the day… but I knew I just had to get her in here.
She told me days before the session that she didn’t want to be in lingerie, that she didn’t want to purchase anything, that she was going to just bring sweaters and knee high socks. She told me she was going to be my most challenging client … little did she know that this was something I hear often and have to talk women through all the time. I DO have a plan for when this happens. I was proud of her when she finally broke down and went and got herself some new undergarments and a body suit, this was huge, you see when women go shopping for themselves (despite the dread of doing so) this is the pivotal step that they are going to a dressing room and seeing their bodies in a way that they may not have ever done, and often they walk away empowered with outfits they are excited about (props to the ladies who work at these retail or boutique locations for helping with the process!). It also helps them see that they can invest in themselves, for an item purely for themselves.
Michelle showed up with yes mostly sweaters and knee highs lol, but this is where my client closet comes in handy. I made her go through the outfits with me to see if any sparked her interest… she cringed at first and her extreme body language was beyond evident (hands crossed, lips cringed, shoulder to me almost not looking at me, and her tone of voice was very different than her usual bubbly self). She said she liked a few of them.. so I promised her we would do comfy sweaters later, but we needed to start off with these other items. We actually started off with her very own bodysuit.
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I had her stand against the wall and we started the process… she listened to me as I guided her through all the posing advice and steps. I showed her how I want her to stand by displaying it with my own body. I walked her through expressions and where to look. (Trust me ladies, I have taken countless courses and invested thousands of hours into learning posing so this is something I have handled and you just need to let me guide you). Within 2 minutes I started seeing Michelle’s body language change. I showed her an image or 2 from the back of my camera and she lit up, the spark was ignited! I even got her in the lingerie she was dreading, and you know what she told me? I love this outfit! Yeeessssss!!! My work here is done… ok not quite, but almost haha.
By the end of the 2 hours, Michelle was so full of life, we laughed and chatted the time away. In fact we ordered some pizza and chatted with my VIP group about her experience and her inner dialogue. She has a completely different perspective on herself, what a session means and that she was worthy of being feminine, sexy and exactly the person who she is. I know that Michelle works with many photographers due to her business, and having the honour to be the first photographer to capture her in this way is something I will always treasure (and any time she wants to get in front of my lens, I am totally ok with that lol). I am so happy that Michelle took the time to view her images in a body positive way that I described and walked her through. She exclaimed that she loves them, I couldn’t be more proud. In fact, when she speaks to clients upon finishing their makeup, she used to give them a nervous good luck wish, now she is excited for them and wishes that she could do this experience again, this means the world to me, because I know she is now giving other women permission to also accept themselves and have joy in doing so.
I hope that Michelle continues to look at these images of her and always remember that is worthy, capable, valuable and more than enough.